We are either seeing some very ignorant reporting on the record weekly gross sales for Hamilton on Broadway last week, or the media is being completely dishonest for their own political purposes. Either way, let’s debunk this bogus story, shall we?
Here’s how The Daily Beast falsely reported last week’s record-breaking numbers for the hit Broadway show:
As it turns out, the movement to boycott Hamilton for its cast’s public criticism of Vice President-elect Mike Pence was anything but a success: according to The New York Times, last week was the Broadway show’s most profitable week ever. The musical earned a whopping $3.3 million for eight shows last week, breaking a Broadway record previously held by Wicked, which grossed $3.2 million for one week in 2013. In addition to setting a week total, the show also broke records for highest premium ticket price with a $998 seat being purchased last week. The Thanksgiving holiday week tends to be one of the most popular weeks each year for show-going audiences. Following a performance on November 19, actor Brandon V. Dixon addressed the crowd, which included Pence, with a plea for equality under a new president—one who campaigned on being hostile to many minority groups. The show’s actions led to an anti-Hamilton rant from Trump and his supporters, along with several days of national media attention.
Let’s be clear, the false (or, to be generous, the ignorantly mis-informed) aspect of this report has nothing to do with the actual gross sales for last week’s 8 performances of Hamilton. I have no doubt the musical grossed $3.3 million last week. It’s a mega-hit like Broadway hasn’t seen since the early days of Phantom of the Opera. And ticket prices are more than double what they were back in 1989 when that legendary masterpiece opened.
The problem with this reporting (which has been repeated on multiple media outlets desperately looking for any story-line to attack the nascent Trump Administration) is connecting this in any way to the kerfuffle involving the cast of Hamilton and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence.
In my article last week on the Pence curtain speech drama, I detailed my history working in the Broadway industry, but you don’t need over a decade of experience in the biz to understand two basic concepts in tracking the sales and income for a Broadway show: Weekly gross sales and Advance sales.
The definition is pretty obvious but just so reporters from The Daily Beast and other news outlets are perfectly clear, let me break it down. Weekly gross sales represent the income derived from the eight shows that are performed in the current calendar week.
Advance sales are ticket transactions that occur today for a future performance.
Now, if you are looking to buy a ticket to Hamilton, you’re probably going to give Ticketmaster your money today and you won’t be seeing the show until 6 months from now. So today’s transaction for a performance scheduled on June 1st would be counted as “advance sales” and once the actual performance plays on June 1st, your ticket purchase will be counted in the “weekly gross sales” figure.
So, knowing these distinctions, let’s look at this record-breaking week once again.
Last week’s Thanksgiving schedule brought in a weekly gross sales figure of $3.3 million which means the eight performances that played from Nov. 21 – Nov. 27 accounted for $3.3 million of sales acquired months ago for the holiday week (a week that is traditionally a high-grossing week).
Obviously, (to you and I but not to a reporter from The Daily Beast) the record-breaking gross sales figure reported all over the media had absolutely nothing to do with the curtain speech delivered to Pence on the Friday before Thanksgiving.
It is certainly possible that Hamilton did see some increase in advance sales as a result of the highly-publicized incident, but it would not be reflected in the record-breaking weekly gross sales figure reported in these stories. If there was a popular response to the curtain speech incident that translated to a surge in ticket sales made last week, it would only be reflected in the show’s advance sales figure and a comparison of advance sales made the week before the curtain speech compared to advance sales made after the speech.
Until the producers release that number, we won’t know for sure whether Hamilton benefited financially from lecturing the Vice-President- elect. All we do know is ignorant reporters with the desire to weave a fanciful, anti-Trump story-line will find a way to do so, come hell or high water.